How do you learn social media social norms?

[cross-posted to my teaching blog]

Most of our social interactions are governed by scripts and rules that we internalize and apply when appropriate. For example, we all have the scripts of “first date,” “job interview,” and, possibly, “the talk.”

How do we pick up the social norms for these scripts? How do we learn what type of communicative behavior is appropriate in certain situations? By observing, from movies and TV, from stories people tell, maybe even from etiquette books and columns.

Usually, it takes time for these scripts to emerge, and it takes time to learn them.

In social media, it seems to me, these social norms for appropriate communicative behavior emerge much faster, and are picked up much faster. Twitter lists have barely launched, and we already have some norms, and “best practices” about using them.

Twitter and LinkedIn just announced their integration, which means we’ll soon have social norms for appropriate behavior there, too. In fact, barely 24 hours later, there are articles with Do’s and Don’ts about it.

So, I have two questions for you:

  1. How are social media social norms created? Do they emerge organically, as we communicate with social media? Are they spelled out so quickly by “opinion leaders” that behavior is shaped by them so quickly that we don’t have time to experiment and figure them out?
  2. How do you learn social media norms? From blog posts/articles? By seeing behavior be reprimanded? By watching others and doing what they do? By being exposed to rants about unacceptable behaviors?